THERE were tears of joy from sailors and their loved ones as the company of HMS Iron Duke arrived in Portsmouth this morning.
The city-based ship arrived at Portsmouth’s dockyard at around 11am, with 600 family and friends waiting patiently to greet them.
The company of 180 people was returning from a six-month deployment spanning 11 countries in Africa, central and South America.
AB Terry Johnson, 21, who is from Portsmouth, said the deployment to countries including South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Panama, Barbados and the Falkland Islands had been ‘eye-opening’.
He said: ‘It was unreal to see poverty like it but I think South Africa was really unbelievable. ‘We were there for about a month. It’s the best country I have ever been to. We had a week where me and some of the other lads hired a villa.
‘There was a little scare at one point and we thought we would not be back in time for Christmas so it is a massive relief to be back and see my family.’
HMS Iron Duke’s Commanding Officer, Commander Thomas Tredray, said: ‘This has been a very successful deployment for HMS Iron Duke. We have represented the Royal Navy and the UK around the world, on the high seas and during a wide variety of port visits.
‘Throughout this, the ship’s company have achieved everything that has been asked of them and I am very proud of how well they have performed.’